Cents’ fightback comes too late

Late try ends Cents’ hopes of an upset

Rugby League Challenge Cup Preliminary Round

St Albans Centurions 22 British Police RL 32

ST ALBANS Centurions came within a few minutes of causing a sensational upset in the first stages of the 2011 Rugby League Challenge Cup on Sunday when they faced the British Police Rugby League team at Hemel Hempstead rugby league ground.

The Rugby League Challenge Cup is the rugby equivalent of football’s FA cup, when the preliminary, first and second rounds are played between amateur teams up and down the country, before the semi-pro and then the full-time professional clubs join in during the later rounds.

The Cents’ opponents, the British Police Rugby League team, were provided a stern challenge for the St Albans boys, as it is made up of the best police rugby league players in Britain. The visitors had just returned from a successful tour of Australia and are in the middle of their season, whereas the Centurions are in their off-season. The Cents qualified for their place in the preliminary stages by winning the RLC National title in September when they defeated Coventry Bears.

The game could not have started better for the St Albans team, for the first 15 minutes they seemed to be camped in the Police half of the pitch, however, no matter what they tried, they just could not get over their opponents’ try line.

Most Read

The visitors’ combination of large, fit players was enough to see every Cents attack thwarted. After 20 minutes it seemed as though someone had thrown a switch, for the whole nature of the game changed with the police going on to the attack.

Their first four tries all came from sloppy play. Cents players either dropped balls or lost them in the tackles and each fault was punished by the police with a try.

When the half time whistle went the Centurions found themselves 26-0 down.

Shane Rampling’s side came out fighting after the interval and showed a renewed faith in themselves.

After crossing the line twice and having both tries ruled as ‘no tries’, the Cents finally found their way over in the 50th minute. Cents prop forward Andy Lake was the man who successfully crashed over from 10 yards out to score with David Kramer adding the conversion.

Five minutes later Nick Wooley outpaced the defence to go in at the corner and in the 65th minute Cents’ captain fantastic Rampling jinked one way, then the other and took four defenders over with him to score another try, which Kramer again converted.

With the score at 16-26, Cents’ travelling supporters began to feel that a fightback was well and truly on the way.

With less than five minutes left, new signing Mick Stringer showed the police a clean pair of heels and sprinted 30 yards and over the try line. The score was 22- 26 when Kramer kicked the conversion.

Unfortunately the game was beginning to slow down as Cents players Oli Fountain, Rudi Van der Merwe and Kramer had all being forced to leave the field with leg injuries.

At the kick off Cents went all out to score that last minute try to win the game but unfortunately in their keenness, the ball was dropped, scooped up by the British Police winger who went down the field to score in the last minute of the game.

In the after game presentations, the British Police coach, Jon Hamer, said that the he had heard good things about St Albans Centurions and had come prepared for a tough, fast game, and they hadn’t been disappointed. He said it was a testament to Cents’ quality and commitment that the game hadn’t been decided until the last minute. The British Police now go on to play the Royal Navy Rugby League team in the next round.

Cents: Kramer, Stringer, Westhead, Van der Merwe, Fountain, Watling, Rampling, Dube, Wade, Bell, Lake, Hensby, Maloney, Edwards, Shaw, Wooley, Webber.